Saturday, August 3, 2019

THEY CALLED US ENEMY by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

George Takei, who played the role of science officer Sulu on the Star Trek series, tells the story of his family's time in two Japanese Internment camps during WWII. The use of a graphic format with drawings by Harmony Becker allows readers to see as well as read this powerful story.

Takei shares the gripping story of his family being ripped from their home and business and transported by train to a camp in Arkansas. Only four years old at the time, Takei recalls trying to stay strong for his younger brother and sister despite the fact that he didn't understand what was happening. The family of five where forced to live in a horse stall in the first camp. Later they were transferred to another facility where they shared two small rooms.

Takei's father was elected to leadership roles in the two camps. He was instrumental in helping educate and instruct other Japanese Americans as they navigated their way through the government imprisonment. He could also understand and interpret the various laws passed by the U.S. government that further removed the rights of these Americans simply because of the circumstance of their births.

There are definite comparisons made between the internment camps and what is happening to migrant families today. It seems that the U.S. government hasn't learn from the lessons of the past.

Artwork by Harmony Becker furthers the story and allows readers to easily visualize conditions in these camps. Takei includes discussion with his father after their release as he tried to understand why the government mistreated Japanese Americans. THEY CALLED US ENEMY provides an important look at a terrible time in U.S. history.

Friday, August 2, 2019

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Thank you to Teenreads.com for the sneak peek of this powerful book!

This is Campbell's first football game at her new school. She volunteered to sell concessions hoping she might meet a few possible new friends. She quickly learns that the other students working with her aren't very committed to the job, but she'll try her best.

Lena is stopping by the game to catch her friends' dance performance at halftime. As soon as she can, she plans to hook up with her boyfriend Black. That will be the real highlight of her evening.

When a huge fight breaks out between students of the two rival schools, both girls find themselves huddled in the concession stand hoping to avoid the melee. When the police show up, the fighting tension escalates. Lena and Campbell make a break for a nearby classroom where they hope to collect Campbell's backpack and use her phone to call for rides. 

What follows is their desperate journey to find Lena's boyfriend and avoid more violence erupting in the city streets. The girls are soon in the middle of racial tension with shots fired, police threats, and looting mobs. 

Authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have created a powerful story with strong characters and ripped from the headlines events. The voices of Campbell and Lena are authentic and relatable. I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT is a must read that speaks to current racial issues.

Friday, July 26, 2019

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

It seemed like a good idea when Hetty decided to attend Raxter School for Girls. It meant getting out of Boston and not having to deal with her Navy father's constant deployments. The school was on a secluded island off the East coast with the promise of adventures in the woods and the chance to make new friends.

It turned out that a girl named Byatt and another named Reese were the only girls Hetty was able to connect with as friends. Reese's father was the handyman who fixed things around the school, and Reese was the only girl who actually lived on the island. 

About eighteen months ago strange things began to happen. An illness labeled the Tox gradually took over the school. Some girls overcome by the Tox died while others were left with deformities, an extra spine, gills in addition to lungs, and appendages covered with scales. Hetty was left blinded in one eye. 

The headmistress and remaining teacher attempted to hold things together. The Navy sent supplies, but they were never enough. The CDC had set up facilities on the mainland where tests were conducted to determine a cure. In the meantime the island was quarantined and eventually the girls were cut off from communication entirely.

When Hetty's friend Byatt disappears, she and Reese make a plan to break through the fence to rescue the sick girl. It soon becomes clear that more is going on than the girls have been told. The rescue mission quickly becomes a survival situation. Can Hetty and Reese escape? If they are successful, will the Tox end their lives anyway?

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power is described as a feminine version of Lord of the Flies. Intense suspense, brutal images, and non-stop action will make this a popular read for young adults and adult readers as well.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL by Stacy McAnulty

Getting struck by lightning. It happens. It happened 4 years ago to Lucy Callahan. Lucy's life changed that day. After the incident, Lucy became a math savant. She could do crazy hard math problems in her head really fast. Unfortunately, there were a few side effects to get used to, but Lucy, with the help of her grandmother, manages to adapt to the changes.

The side effects included some OCD behavior that drew unwanted attention when Lucy was at school so her grandmother elected to homeschool Lucy. Of course Lucy excelled in math and had easily outpaced her fellow grade school students. 

With her unique math abilities and her quirky tics, making friends and fitting in was difficult. As the story opens, Lucy and her grandmother are attempting to come to terms with the fact that Lucy is academically ready for college, but socially stunted. When Lucy hears her grandmother's solution, she can't believe it. Grandmother thinks Lucy should try one year in middle school, 7th grade to be exact. She wants Lucy to make 1 friend, join 1 activity, and read 1 book. Can she succeed without losing control?

Readers will cheer Lucy on as she makes not 1 friend, but eventually 2. She learns how to deal with bullies, participates in an awesome community service project, and even gets suspended. 

THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL is Stacy McAnulty's first novel. She illustrates determination, the importance of friendship, and overcoming obstacles in the fast-paced, heartwarming read. I can't wait to get ahold of her second book, THE WORLD ENDS IN APRIL.



Friday, July 5, 2019

WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND by Alison McGhee

Will works at Dollar Only. He quotes music lyrics with his boss Major Tom. He remembers moments with his childhood friend Playa. He talks with the homeless man. He leaves surprise gifts for a little boy who loves butterflies. Every Tuesday night, he attempts to recreate his father's cornbread recipe, but he always fails. And, he walks and walks and walks.

At first Will is walking away from the sad things in his life. He walks to forget that his father committed suicide. He walks to avoid thinking about the three guys that raped Playa. He wants to leave all the bad things behind.

The sadness still finds Will, but he learns that leaving gifts of kindness help him cope. He forms a friendship with his boss, hands his cornbread failures over to the homeless man, befriends the little lonely boy and his butterflies, and leaves small gifts he hopes will please Playa. Memories of the Chinese store with the shelves of one hundred blessings eventually remind him of the good times with his father. His walking begins to take him toward his future as he begins to leave his past behind.

Author Alison McGhee deftly tells Will's story in short one hundred word chapters across one hundred pages. She shows her readers the importance of cherishing past moments as blessings to be taken forward into the future. WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND is a fast, yet memorable read.

THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen

A line tender works with a dive team. The line is attached to a diver during search and rescue. A determined number of tugs on the line indicate if a victim has been found alive or dead or if the diver is in a dangerous situation. 

Lucy Everhart's father is a diver. Her mother was a marine biologist who studied sharks. Five years ago her mother died from a brain aneurysm. Lucy and her father have been getting by since then.

The summer of Lucy's twelfth year she and her best friend Fred have been working on a summer science project. Not many kids do schoolwork in the summer, but Lucy and Fred are dedicated to the subject of their project - marine life. They are creating a field guide for all the sea life they see along the coast. 

When a local fisherman snags a shark, Lucy and Fred are thrilled to include it in their guide. Inspired by her mother's research, Lucy and Fred are determined to create a detailed entry for the great white shark. Before they can finish, Lucy loses Fred in a tragic drowning accident in the local quarry. Now Lucy has lost two people she loves. As a way of dealing with her grief, Lucy sets a goal to investigate and carry on her mother's study of the great white sharks.

THE LINE TENDER is a heartbreaking story of a young girl's loss. Woven into the story are Lucy's drawings and a plethora of shark facts this reader found fascinating.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WHERE THE HEART IS by Jo Knowles

Life has been pretty easy for Rachel until recently. She and her friend Micah would spend hours biking and swimming. Rachel didn't even mind when her parents insisted that she take her little sister Ivy along. 

Unfortunately, Rachel's parents have been fighting lately. The subject of those fights is usually money. Her mother lost her job as a school librarian because of budget cuts, and her father's job as a realtor is not paying enough to keep the bills paid. When Rachel is offered a job by their new neighbors, she hopes to pitch in and help with the family's expenses. 

Taking care of a pig named Lucy, a baby steer named Ferdinand, plus chickens, horses, and a couple of goats turns out to be a fun way to earn some needed money. It isn't always easy, but Rachel loves the animals and knows people are counting on her. At least the job helps her keep her mind off the fact that Micah is suddenly interested in one of her friends, while Rachel struggles with her own sexual identity and her own attraction to another girl in her grade.

When it becomes clear that the family money trouble is serious, Rachel realizes she will be leaving the house that has been HOME to her family for as long as she can remember. What will happen to their own family pets, her pony Rainbow and her sister's cat George? Will she still get to take care of the neighbors' animals, and will she still be friends with Micah?

Author Jo Knowles has crafted a tale about family and friends and what home really means. Readers will easily relate to Rachel's struggles as she works to discover her true self and how that fits with being a good daughter, sister, and friend. WHERE THE HEART IS needs to have a place in every library and middle grade classroom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

BELLY UP by Eva Darrows

I fell in love with Serendipity "Sara" before the end of chapter one. Sara, half Swedish, half Hispanic, has a sharp wit and a sharp tongue. She is headed to her senior year with dreams of an Ivy League college and an amazing life. One night in the back of a pickup may just change things forever.

Sara runs into her ex at a party. Although he has still been texting her occasionally, he looks pretty interested in Samantha, his new girl friend. It's more than Sara can take, and after a few too many drinks, she hooks up with a cute guy named Jack. He's hot and fun, and sex in the back of his truck isn't bad either.

When Sara's best friend Devi learns about the hookup and the fact that condoms were absent, she nags Sara about going to the clinic to get tested for STDs. Unfortunately, life gets busy and Sara puts off the clinic visit. A few months later it's obvious that something is going on, but being pregnant was not on Sara's radar at all.

BELLY UP takes readers on Sara's pregnancy journey. Telling her mother isn't nearly as difficult as telling Mormor, her grandmother, but both are support as they wait for Sara to decide her course of action. Her decision to keep the baby is again met with support and acceptance. In addition to the news of becoming a mother, Sara is also faced with moving to a new school district, adjusting to life with her eccentric grandmother, and making new friends who will accept her situation. 

Author Eva Darrows doesn't sugar-coat Sara's pregnancy. She presents both the good and the bad using Sara's quick wit, determination, and humor. Darrows is also the author of DEAD LITTLE MEAN GIRL, another book I'll be added to my TBR list.

Friday, June 21, 2019

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart

A huge thank you to a friend who suggested this wonderful book! And an even bigger thank you to author Dan Gemeinhart for writing it!!

Five years ago Coyote's two sisters and her mother were killed in an accident. Since then Coyote and her father who calls himself Rodeo, have been traveling the country in an old school bus. Rodeo and Coyote have made a promise to look only to the future and never mention the tragedy of their past. Coyote, now twelve years old, sometimes wishes she could talk about the past and the memories she has tucked away, but she respects her father's need to forget.

The two travelers have crisscrossed the country numerous times. Coyote loves to read and learns what she needs in a sort of homeschool situation. It's just been Coyote and Rodeo until one day during a gas stop, Coyote finds a kitten. She sneaks the tiny thing onto the bus and manages to keep it a secret for several days. She names him Ivan after a character in her favorite book. Keeping a secret really isn't possible in their tight living quarters so Rodeo eventually meets Ivan. The kitten passes the 500 mile test and becomes a part of the family.

Their usual calm life changes when Coyote checks in with her grandmother only to learn that the park in her hometown is scheduled to be demolished. In a few short days bulldozers will be leveling the pretty park where she and her sisters and mother spent many happy times. Coyote is determined to return to the park to rescue the memory box they buried there just before the tragic accident took the lives of Rose, Ava, and their mother. There's only one problem - Rodeo has made it clear he never, ever wants to return home.

Author Dan Gemeinhart deftly combines humor, determination, and heartbreak in this beautiful story. Readers will immediately connect with the clever Coyote and her hippie father. Other quirky characters join them on their cross country journey. Gemeinhart reminds readers that there are still kind and caring people in the world. I do suggest keeping a tissue handy as you read.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

STRANGERS ASSUME MY GIRLFRIEND IS MY NURSE by Shane Burcaw

Shane Burcaw's new collection of essays continues to follow Shane's adventures as he shares what it's like to live with SMA. He is the successful creator of a non-profit organization that provides specialized equipment for people with disabilities. He is also the host of a blog called Laughing At My Nightmare, and the author of a book by the same name. At age 25 he has accomplished more than most people twice his age.

I became a fan of Shane's after reading his first book and then sharing it with my 11th grade English students. They had just read Mitch Albom's TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE in which Albom highlights the positive attitude of his old college professor suffering from ALS. Shane Burcaw shares the same positive attitude and includes just the right amount of irreverence to capture the attention of teen readers. 

Shane's new book reviews a bit of his previous material, but it mostly picks up where he left off. Many of his new experiences involve the love of his life, Hannah. Their relationship has developed to the point of moving in together in Hannah's hometown in Minnesota. Shane exhibits his laugh out loud brand of humor as he relates road trips to Buffalo and Manhattan, his work with contractors as he has an elevator installed so he can have his own living space in his parents' basement, talk about sex and how things work with a steady girlfriend, and much more.

I always feel like I've had a breath of fresh air and a healthy dose of positivity after reading Shane's books. His upbeat attitude and his never flagging determination are an inspiration. (Sorry, Shane. I know you wouldn't like the "inspiration" reference, but it's true.)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

THE RHINO IN RIGHT FIELD by Stacy Dekeyser

Nick and his buddies love playing baseball. The ball field where they play has a unique location - right next to the Milwaukee Zoo, and specifically, next to the rhino's enclosure. Nick is less than talented when it comes to catching fly balls making him very familiar with the rhino. Scaling the fence and entering the rhino's territory to retrieve baseballs, Nick discovers he can actually outrun the 2,580 pound beast.

On Saturdays Nick works in his father's hat shop. That's where his met Mr. Joe Daggett. Mr. Daggett is the new owner of the Milwaukee Mudpuppies. While getting his shoes shined by Nick's father, Nick hears about a contest to choose a ball boy for the team. The winner will be a Mudpuppy for the day. The only catch is the contest is going to be held on Saturday.

What follows is a series of elaborate lies that end with Nick competing in the contest and actually winning. The story is filled with crazy antics and humor that will have readers laughing out loud.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

HONOR GIRL by Maggie Thrash


This isn't Maggie's first summer at Camp Bellflower for Girls. She has been coming to the summer camp for years. She is in for a number of surprises that are sure to make this summer memorable.

This year Maggie chooses shooting as one of her activities. She appears to be a natural. She finds the focus necessary to hit the bullseye is a perfect distraction from all her conflicting feelings. By the end of the summer, Maggie has earned her D.E. - Distinguished Expert status. 

Some of the feelings she tries to escape with her shooting involve the feelings she has come to have for an older counselor in the junior camp. Erin has been slipping away to spend time with Maggie. Camp rules are probably being broken considering Maggie is only 15 and Erin is 19. Maggie is left questioning if she might be a lesbian and is eager for Erin to act on intimate moments that might promise a kiss.

A final unexpected surprise is when Maggie is given the Honor Girl award in the final ceremony. She has seen the award given to very special girls over the years and isn't sure she is truly deserving of the honor. What she has experienced throughout the summer leaves her with much to consider as she returns home with her mother. Time will tell just exactly what the future holds for Maggie.

HONOR GIRL is a graphic memoir by Maggie Thrash. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

BAN THIS BOOK by Alan Gratz

Amy Anne Ollinger is in fourth grade at Shelbourne Elementary. She loves to read. Her favorite book is From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Amy Anne's world turns upside down the day she discovers this awesome book missing from the school library. 

Librarian, Mrs. Jones, has bad news for Amy Anne. The book she's read countless times has been removed from the shelf and banned from the school. That isn't the only book. There's a list of more than eleven books a parent has demanded the school board remove as she considers them unfit for elementary students to read.

Amy Anne is upset, but isn't sure how to express herself. When she tries to tell her parents, the chaos of having two younger sisters, two dogs, and two busy parents makes it impossible. Several of her friends are just as shocked as she is about the removal of some of their favorite books. Danny and Rebecca, and soon a few others, team up to get their hands on copies of the banned books, and soon Amy Anne becomes the official librarian of the B.B.L.L. - Banned Book Locker Library.

When it is discovered that students throughout the school are reading the banned books because of Amy Anne's locker library, the school administration takes action. Mrs. Jones the librarian is fired and Amy Anne is suspended. 

Author Alan Gratz shows how a few determined students can change the course of events in one elementary school. BAN THIS BOOK is a delight. It is filled with mentions of great children's books that readers are sure to recognize. I can't wait to share this with readers.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

BAY BOY: Stories of a Childhood in Point Clear, Alabama by Watt Key


Imagine living life without smart phones, apps, and video games. Most people would claim it's impossible. BAY BOY by Watt Key gives readers a chance to imagine the impossible. Key takes readers on a journey into his childhood growing up on Mobile Bay in Alabama.

BAY BOY is comprised of 32 essays with titles like The Longest Day of the Year, Hurricanes, The Ghost of Zundel's Wharf, and I'llNeeda. In the essays author Watt Key tells of wild adventures, family and friends, and what it's like to live in and around nature. 

Key, the oldest of seven, tells about fishing on the bay and stomping through the local swamps. He entertains with stories about crazy pets like Sally the possum, Smokey the gray squirrel, and the craziest - wild pigs. There are fishing stories about shrimping and catching sheepshead, called convicts in and around Point Clear. 

Included in the essays are tales about road trips in the family's green station wagon that are sure to stun readers used to seatbelts and airbags. I laughed out loud when I read about Key's clever sibling loosening a bolt on the church pew that resulted in a loud crash and the entire Key clan sliding down the broken bench. I wasn't surprised when I read that Key eventually became frustrated with his chaotic family and at age sixteen decided to head into the surrounding wilderness and live on his own. He was surprised at his mother's calm reaction and condoning behavior, and after a few short days, he decided to return home.

For me the most fascinating essay was I'llNeeda. The title caught my attention as I scanned the table of contents. In it, Key tells about a homeless woman who came to live nearby. When certain household items and food came up missing, it was discovered that Key's younger brother was taking them to the woman. The young boy had simply responded to the woman's statements, "I need a …"

Author Watt Key is well known for his young adult and middle grade novels such as ALABAMA MOON, DIRT ROAD HOME, TERROR AT BOTTLE CREEK, and DEEP WATER. This entertaining collection of personal essays will be available in October 2019.



Tuesday, May 28, 2019

SQUIRM by Carl Hiaasen

SQUIRM is the latest offering from author Carl Hiaasen. I am a fan of his adult novels as well as his adventure novels for middle grade readers. If you have a young reader looking for suspense and humor, I suggest checking out Hiaasen's books.

Billy Dickens knows very little about his father. The man left his family behind years ago. Billy has grown up with his mother and his sister Belinda. His mother's love of bald eagles has resulted in a fairly transient lifestyle. They move every couple of years as Billy's mother needs to live close to an active eagles' nest. Billy has learned that making friends only brings disappointment so he keeps to himself and instead spends time exploring the Florida habitat.

When Billy discovers an envelop with a return address for Dennis Dickens, he uses his mother's credit card to book a flight to Montana. Surprisingly, his mother is supportive of his desire to meet with his father.

When he arrives in Montana, Billy is annoyed to learn that his father is off on some secret assignment leaving him with only his new stepmother and stepsister. Montana is pretty cool, though, and exploring what nature has to offer keeps Billy entertained. A mysterious drone sighting seems to be connected to his father's secret job. Billy's short visit to Montana leaves him with more questions than answers even after he meets his dad.

SQUIRM takes readers on an adventure from Florida to Montana and back again. Billy is surrounded by bald eagles, snakes, grizzly bears, and poachers. SQUIRM definitely qualifies as a real page-turner.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME by Olivia Hinebaugh

Lacey Burke and her friends Evita and Theo are completely disgusted by the sexual abstinence policy promoted in their senior seminar class. Abstinence hasn't stop teen pregnancies in their high school. In fact, they recently met Alice, a pregnant teen who chose homeschooling because she felt uncomfortable at going to school.

Lacey has always felt comfortable when discussing sexual topics with her mother. Lacey was the result of her mother's teen pregnancy so Lacey knows the difficulties first hand. Her mother works as a labor and delivery nurse at the local hospital and has encouraged Lacey to train and volunteer as a doula who assists mothers during labor. 

When the discussion of healthy sexual habits begins in senior seminar, Lacey and Evita are frustrated that the use of condoms is not part of the lecture. Even though Lacey has never even been kissed, she knows the importance of protection during sex. It becomes obvious from her classmates' responses that most of the students are not only uncomfortable about the discussion of condoms, but also don't understand the proper time to use them or even where to get them. Lacey decides to make it her mission to educate her fellow students.

Lacey, Evita, and Theo work together to create an educational pamphlet explaining the use of condoms and even dental dams for protection during oral sex. With the help of her mother, Lacey gets free condoms and other items for protection against sexually transmitted infections. Their new friend Alice volunteers her currently empty locker as a place to distribute the pamphlets and condoms, etc. Lacey also uses one of the girls' restrooms as an information center where students can freely ask questions about sexual activity.

Helping their fellow students makes sense until the locker distribution system is discovered by school authorities. Accused of providing lewd materials, Lacey and her friends find themselves defending their right to offer alternatives to the school's abstinence policy.

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME is the debut novel of author Olivia Hinebaugh. She combines friendship and music with the difficult questions and feelings about teen sexuality. Some readers may be surprised by her upfront, honest discussion of sexually active teens, but this is a book perfect for 2019 and the attempts to take away personal control over our bodies, especially for women. 

NOTE: I just learned about a service called The Pill Box which offers birth control options by subscription through the mail. Check it out!

Friday, May 10, 2019

I AM ALFONSO JONES by Tony Medina

Author Tony Medina and illustrators Stacey Robinson and John Jennings are the creators of this powerful graphic novel focusing on gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Readers will experience the emotions of Alfonso as well as those left behind after his death.

Alfonso convinced his best friend Danetta to help him shop for his first suit. He is planning to wear it when his father is released from prison. Alfonso barely knows his dad who was found guilty of a crime he didn't commit. DNA evidence has proven that he didn't do the crime and after years in prison he is about to be released.

All the celebration comes to a sudden halt when Alfonso is shot by a store police officer/security guard. While trying on suit jackets, Alfonso handled a clothes hanger. It was mistaken for a gun, and he was shot multiple times. He didn't survive.

After his death, Alfonso's ghost joins others who died violently at the hands of the police. He rides the ghost train as he tries to make sense of his death and the impact it had on those he loved. He will never play the role of Hamlet in his school play. He will never learn if Danetta is destined to more than just his best friend. And, Alfonso will never welcome his father home from prison.

I AM ALFONSO JONES honors victims of police shootings and the senseless deaths that have become all too common in society today. This is a must-read book that should be in every classroom and library in the country.

Friday, May 3, 2019

THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE by Jordan Sonnenblick

Maverick is the smallest kid he knows. Starting sixth grade known as a shrimp has Mav thinking of ways to make the year tolerable. On the first day of school he slips the plastic sheriff's badge his father gave him into his pocket and vows to be a hero.

The first day of school is actually a half-day so Mav figures it should be smooth sailing. Little does he know that he will find himself in the assistant principal's office twice worried that he might get kicked out of the place before he's even started. 

Knowing that his late father was a hero in the war has always helped Mav through difficult times. When his mother started drinking and dating guys who hit her more often than they hugged her, Mav tried to rationalize that life was just tough without a dad. When he witnesses his mother's latest boy friend smack her and then walk out the door, Mav knows things have to change.

Admiring superheroes like Captain America and Spiderman might be the motivation Maverick needs to stand up to the bullies at school, but he really isn't a superhero, just a short kid trying to stay out of trouble and keep his crappy home life a secret.

Jordan Sonnenblick, author of DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, uses his trademark humor and knowledge of the kid mind to create a realistic view of bullying and one boy's attempt to rise above it all. Readers will be rooting for Maverick as soon as they meet him. With tons of relatable characters and situations, THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE will connect with Sonnenblick's fans and earn him many more.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

BLOOD MOUNTAIN by James Preller

First, I'd like to thank the author, James Preller, for an early peek at BLOOD MOUNTAIN. Second, I suggest you put this one on your pre-order list for its October 2019 release. You are going to want to read it as soon as it comes out and share it with friends!

Grace, Carter, and their father set out to hike Blood Mountain, but their plans quickly change. Dad just isn't going as quickly as the kids would like so they take off ahead with the family dog, Sitka. 
When their father begins feeling chest pains and other scary heart attack related symptoms, the kids are too far away to give him the help he needs. 

Excited by the sights and sounds, Grace and Carter keep hiking on. Their difficulties begin when Grace slips and slides down a cliff. When she lands, she has an ugly gash on one leg, a possibly broken ankle on the other, and most likely several broken ribs. Leaving the dog to guard Grace, Carter heads back to find their father and get help.

What follows is a breathless adventure involving a dangerous mud bog, an escaped mountain lion, and a mountain man intent on keeping his whereabouts unknown. A local ranger becomes involved in the rescue. When she learns two kids are missing on the mountain, she is determined they won't be lost on her watch.

In BLOOD MOUNTAIN author James Preller tells a fast-paced, action-packed story that is filled with intense moments and well-researched outdoor information. From the detailed description of the father's heart attack symptoms to facts about mountain terrain/wildlife, and knowledge of traumatized veterans, Preller nails it. Readers will be pulled from start to finish hoping for a satisfying conclusion.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller

GIRLS ON THE VERGE will no doubt be considered a controversial addition to YA literature, but its message is one that should be communicated to girls everywhere. In this reviewer's opinion politics has no place in women's reproductive rights and the right to choose. This may not be an opinion shared by everyone, however, GIRLS ON THE VERGE handles the subject in a sensitive manner that might just change the opinions of some.

When Camille discovers she is pregnant, she knows the last thing she wants is to be a mother at age seventeen. Her plans for the future will eventually include a family, but she is determined that the one mistake she made while on a meaningless date will not ruin her life.

Living in Texas has stacked the deck against girls like Camille. Her trip to the crisis clinic reveals the strict laws of her state. On the surface the staff seems understanding, but when Camille experiences a vaginal probe followed by prenatal advice assuming she will keep the baby, she realizes choice is the last thing she is being offered. The clinic requires parental consent or her appearance before a judge who might dismiss the requirement. 

Camille fears disappointing her parents so she finds help with a planned parenthood representative. They appear before the judge, but her request is denied. Texas is denying Camille's right to an abortion. 

Another alternative is to head to the Mexico border where an abortion drug is available. Accompanied by two friends, Camille uses attendance at a summer theater camp as a cover for the road trip that will hopefully help solve her problem. What follows is an emotionally charged experience in which ideas differ about the choice Camille is making. 

GIRLS ON THE VERGE by Sharon Biggs Waller is well written and researched. Readers will better understand the feeling when personal choice is compromised. No matter one's stand on abortion, Waller brings the right of choice to the table and opens up the possibility of discussion that might promote change.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly

Iris may be deaf, but she is quite a girl. At only twelve years old, she is a genius when it comes to fixing radios. Using vibrations she feels through touch, she is able to repair the old radios she finds at a local junk store. When she finishes, she sells them back to the store's owner. Unfortunately, Iris wishes she could just repair radios all day long instead of going to school and dealing with the frustration of trying to communicate with people who don't understand her.

Things at school begin looking up the day Iris's science teacher shows a video of a whale named Blue 55. The whale is a hybrid species and it's been discovered that he can't communicate with other whales. Scientists in several wildlife sanctuaries listening to the sounds of whales discovered Blue 55's song is at a higher decibel than most other whales. Their tracking systems show that he tries to interact with other whale groups, but he is excluded.

When Iris sees the video, she immediately wants to help Blue 55. She begins researching whale songs and hertz measurements to find out how she can create a song specially designed for Blue 55. With the help of her friend Wendell, the school music teacher, and an app on her phone, Iris is able to create a song. She emails a scientist at the wildlife sanctuary mentioned on the video about the whale. She includes a recording of the song she created suggesting they could play it through underwater speakers for Blue 55 the next time he is in that part of the ocean.

What follows is an adventure that takes Iris and her grandmother to Alaska where she hopes to see the results of her hard work in person. Things may not go exactly as planned and she may be grounded until middle age, but Iris is determined to let the whale know someone hears him.

Author Lynne Kelly uses her experience as a American Sign Language translator to create a tale about a young girl and a lonely whale. Whether Iris is simply helping a whale or perhaps finding a way to make herself heard, readers will love this crazy, action-packed adventure.


Friday, April 5, 2019

PAY ATTENTION, CARTER JONES by Gary D. Schmidt


Life takes a strange turn the day Carter Jones opens the front door and met the Butler. Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick takes charge of the Jones household. There will no longer be meals in front of the TV. The usual sugary cereal for breakfast is replaced by steel-cut oatmeal with cream. Carter and his three sisters are delivered to school in an eggplant colored Bentley that draws more attention than Carter wants.

The Butler expects good manners, proper English, and regular walks for Nate the family dachshund. All of this is a bit of a surprise for Carter and his sisters, but his mother welcomes the organization and stability. Carter's father is currently deployed in Germany, and the death of his younger brother Currier still has everyone dealing with painful memories.

Basically, Carter sees the Butler as "a pain in the glutes." This feeling intensifies when the Butler organizes a cricket team and insists that Carter and his schoolmates learn how to play this strange but traditional game of England. Sixth grade Carter is shocked when the Butler suggests the eighth graders on the cross country team should be involved as well. Carter knows well that sixth graders don't mix with eighth graders, but he is about to learn the Butler can handle anything.

Author Gary D. Schmidt shows readers that proper behavior and being a gentleman can create the confidence needed to deal with impossible situations. Quirky characters, humor, and a healthy bit of competition combine to entertain as well as inform in PAY ATTENTION, CARTER JONES. I confess I still don't have a working understanding of the game of cricket, but it makes me interested in learning more.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson takes readers into her story as a survivor. In SHOUT she tells about abuse by a trusted friend and the impact it had on the rest of her life.

As the daughter of a minister, she tells of the frequent moves during her childhood. Her father's unpredictable behavior made life uncertain much of the time. Shame and the knowledge that talking to anyone about her abusive experience would not be welcome news, Anderson kept it a secret for years. 

Anderson's experience revealed itself through her work. SPEAK addressed the subject of rape. TWISTED details a difficult father/son relationship. CATALYST revealed two unlikely friends. The backstories for these books are made clear through Anderson's artful, descriptive, and often stark words.

SHOUT is difficult to describe. It simply needs to be experienced. Anderson's courage speaks directly to the survivors of #MeToo. 





Sunday, March 24, 2019

HEROINE by Mindy McGinnis


Softball is Mickey Catalan's focus. She's a senior hoping to help her team win the state tournament. College scouts will be coming to watch her talent as catcher and hopefully invite her to play at the D3 level. Her best friend Carolina is the team's star pitcher with scholarship hopes of her own. Unfortunately, before the season begins a nasty car accident threatens to end both girls' dreams of the future.

When Mickey is finally aware that she is in the hospital, she finds herself watching as the surgeon who pinned her hip back together is explaining her injury by snapping the leg off a Barbie doll. She listens as her divorced parents explain they will tag-team her physical therapy and doctor appointments to help with her recovery. As she hears about the intense and lengthy therapy, she realizes her softball dreams may not happen.

With the help of painkillers and a massive amount of determination, Mickey surprises everyone and is ready for the start of the softball season. Her friend Carolina's injured arm has also recover enough for her to start pitching on the day of the first game.

Although both Mickey and Carolina suffered injuries in the accident, the way they handle their recovery is different. Mickey finds the painkillers help her not only manage the pain, but also express herself in a way she never has before. When one pill isn't enough, she pops two. When her prescription runs out and the doctor won't prescribe more, she finds another supply.

Mickey is handling the physical strain of playing softball, but she is depending on the pills to make it work. When her supply dries up, she is introduced to a replacement - heroine. By that time being high is more important than her softball dreams.

Author Mindy McGinnis has expertly created a story of addiction that is sure to hit readers hard, but in doing so, she paves the way for the discussion of a rapidly growing problem in today's society. She shows just how easy it is to become dependent on narcotics, just how easy it is to access drugs, and just how easy it is to deceive family and friends. HEROINE is a must-read for teens and adults!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

FAT ANGIE: REBEL GIRL REVOLUTION by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo


Life is not easy. Angie learned that when her sister died in Iraq. She learned it when she became the center of attention after her suicide attempt became part of a school athletic event.

All that is over according to her doesn't-understand-mother. It's time to continue focusing on her dead sister as the town dedicates a statue in her honor. It's time to concentrate on the urn-it's a symbol perched on the fireplace mantel. But, as far as Angie is concerned, all her support systems are gone. Her sister, KC-her true love, Jake-her best friend -- all are gone.

Angie is still grieving. Unfortunately, she is learning that not everyone grieves in the same way. Upon hearing her mother state that she "lost the good one," Angie realizes she will have to make her own way through the sorrow that haunts her every moment. She's ready to do it alone, until an unexpected trio offers their help.

Her old friend Jamboree, a strange girl named Zeke, and the accidentally present Darius invite her to climb aboard a ratty, old RV to embark on an adventure found on a postcard from her sister. The road trip that follows helps Angie recognize that she has value and can accomplish whatever she sets out to do.

In this sequel to FAT ANGIE, author e. E. Charlton-Trujillo proves that with the encouragement of the right people and a no-matter-what attitude can take a person out of her comfort zone and into an accepting, brave new world. Dialogue that rings true, pain that feels real, and quirky places like the shortest street in the country combined to make this reader fall in love with Fat Angie once again.



Sunday, March 10, 2019

ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas

On the Come Up
Bri wants to follow in her father's footsteps to become the rapper he never had to chance to be.  Although he was shot just as his career was beginning, everyone already knew and loved him.

Life hasn't been easy for Bri's family. Her mother Jay fell into a life of drugs after her husband died. She left Bri and her brother Trey to live with their grandparents and checked herself into rehab. Now that the kids are back with her, life still isn't good. Jay is forced to quit taking college courses toward a degree in social work when her job is eliminated. She has her hands full trying to keep food on the table and the utilities on.

When Bri wins her first rap battle in The Ring, she sees a way to help out with things at home. Unfortunately, Jay doesn't want Bri involved in the same scene as her late husband so Bri is forced to sneak around and depend on the help of a shady manager to have her music recognized.

Bri's a hit on YouTube and Instagram, but her edgy words bring criticism that threatens to not only halt her dream career, but also endanger her and her family. Her dream may be more than she can handle at the young age of sixteen.

ON THE COME UP is by Angie Thomas, author of the bestselling THE HATE U GIVE. Her story speaks to teens of all backgrounds hoping to hit it big or find their way to an awesome future.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

RYAN PITTS: AFGHANISTAN: A FIREFIGHT IN THE MOUNTAINS OF WANAT by Michael P. Spradlin

Ryan Pitts: Afghanistan: A Firefight in the Mountains of Wanat

Book #2 in the new MEDAL OF HONOR series by Michael P. Spradlin focuses on the war in Afghanistan.

Ryan Pitts was born in Massachusetts and raised in New Hampshire. During his senior year in high school, he decided to enlist. It was 2003. Ryan knew he wanted to go to college, but he wasn't sure what he wanted to study so he joined the army.

He trained at the U.S. Army Field Artillery School. His training specialized in close-combat aviation. After completing training as a paratrooper, he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy. The 173rd was famous for combat in multiple wars.

The battle that earned Pitts his Medal of Honor involved the Battle of Wanat just outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. His unit was to defend Observation Post Topside to protect the Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler. The surprise attack took place at 4:00 am and lasted several hours. Pitts was badly wounded during the attack that killed the rest of his fellow soldiers. Despite severe blood loss, Pitt held back the insurgents with gunfire and grenades until supporting troops could arrive.

While reading Ryan Pitts' story, I learned about other achievements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam, about the difficult conditions of fighting in Afghanistan, about the role of paratroopers and the weapons they use, and also about aircraft used in battle like the Apache attack helicopters and more. Author Michael P. Spradlin's ability to research and share facts in an informative and entertaining way is sure to attract readers as his MEDAL OF HONOR series continues.

WILD BIRD by Wendelin Van Draanen

Wild Bird

As a total fan of Wendelin Van Draanen's books, I had to get my hands on a copy of WILD BIRD. Readers who enjoyed THE RUNNING DREAM will definitely want to read it.

Wren Clemmens is fourteen. She is the perfect example of a rebellious middle child. She never seems to measure up to her older sister Anabella, and she no longer possesses the innocence of her little brother Mo. If she can't measure up to everyone's expectations, why not act however she wants.

Wren meets Meadow in a school restroom. Meadow is into drinking and drugs which fascinates Wren. It doesn't take long for Wren to join in, and soon she is stealing money from her parents, shoplifting, and even delivering drugs for a cool, older guy named Nico. Her new life is filled with thrills and excitement, but that ends up sending Wren on an unexpected journey.

It is barely 4:00 am when several large men enter Wren's bedroom. They man-handle her out to a waiting vehicle and shove her in. Her family watches tearfully, explaining they love her and this is for the best. Wren is taken to the airport where she joins another teen just as confused as she is. Hours later she is given a backpack and supplies and marched to a camp in the desert.

Wren begins eight weeks in a wilderness therapy camp. Sleeping under a tarp, using a latrine pit, building her own fire, and cooking her own meals takes Wren to a mental place where she can contemplate what has become of her life. She is forced to face her anger and fear as she comes to terms with her actions and the pain and suffering she has brought to a family who she realizes does love and care about her.

WILD BIRD is a hard hitting, tough love story of what it sometimes takes to put someone back on the straight and narrow. Consider it a good addition to any middle/high school collection.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NEW KID by Jerry Craft

New Kid

NEW KID by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that deftly conveys the feelings of being the new kid in a world quite different than your own.

More than anything, Jordan Banks wants to go to art school. Unfortunately, his parents, especially his mother, have different ideas about what's best for Jordan. He is about to start seventh grade at Riverdale Academy Day School. Completely different from his urban, city school, it promises a great educational opportunity, but a lack of diversity means Jordon will be one of only a few brown kids.

The moment his "guide's" father picks him up in a fancy car, Jordan knows he's out of his element. A kid named Liam has been assigned to take Jordan around on the first day and be there for him should he have any questions. Liam quickly abandons Jordan. Using a map to find his classrooms proves nearly impossible, and no one seems to be interested in getting his name right.

Author Jerry Craft takes readers along as Jordan meets his new classmates and figures out both the written and unwritten rules of the unfamiliar society of Riverdale Academy. Each day when he gets home, his mother is excited to hear about his day, his dad seems oddly uninterested, and his neighborhood friends aren't as welcoming as usual. Will he ever make new friends? Will he survive the year? Will Riverdale ever seem like the best place to be?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

MEDAL OF HONOR: JACK MONTGOMERY by Michael P. Spradlin

Jack Montgomery: World War II: Gallantry at Anzio

Author Michael P. Spradlin has released a new series titled MEDAL OF HONOR. The first book in the series is JACK MONTGOMERY: WORLD WAR II-GALLANTRY AT ANZIO. Thank you to the author and publisher for a copy and the chance to review it.

First Lieutenant Jack Montgomery was born in Oklahoma in 1917. He joined the National Guard and become part of a unit comprised of most Native American soldiers. After attending college and earning a Bachelor's degree in physical education, he went back to his National Guard unit. He was discharged after the required year of service in 1941.

With the attack on Pearl Harbor and the involvement of the United States in the European war, Montgomery ended up serving his country on the front lines in Sicily and Italy. His platoon saw action as the Allied troops worked their way up the Italian peninsula.

It was in the attack on Anzio that Montgomery earned his Medal of Honor. He single-handedly took out three machine gun nests, killing German soldiers while taking others captive. The remaining 20 or so soldiers in his platoon had him to thank for their lives. Montgomery was severely injured but went on to recover and accept his medal from President Franklin Roosevelt in January 1945.

The MEDAL OF HONOR series will feature some of the 3,500 soldiers who have received the honor since its creation during the Civil War. Author Michael P. Spradlin tells the story of Jack Montgomery's experiences and heroism on the battlefield and also sprinkles in photographs and colorful details of World War II throughout the text. History buffs are sure to enjoy this new series. It is perfect for middle grade and even high school readers and could be used to supplement history lessons about the time periods. Stay tuned for a review of Book #2 about Ryan Pitts, a soldier in Afghanistan.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

THE LONELY DEAD by April Henry

The Lonely Dead

This reviewer eagerly awaits all new books by April Henry. THE LONELY DEAD did not disappoint.

Adele can't believe she has become the main suspect in the death of her ex-best friend Tori. True, Adele was caught kissing Tori's boy friend during a drunken game of hide and seek, but that was an accident. It was on the way home from the party that Adele came face to face with the dead Tori.

Thanks to an inherited ability from her mother and grandmother, Adele sees the images of the dead  tethered to their remains. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Adele doesn't see the images if she takes her medication, but recently she stopped, claiming to feel more like herself without the drug. The result - Tori appears to Adele tethered to her dead body buried in a shallow grave in the woods.

Tori begs Adele to help find her killer. A call from a nearby payphone sends the police to the woods where Tori's body is recovered and funeral proceedings follow. Adele continues to communicate with Tori's ghost attempting to find out the truth.

Adele's decision to report Tori's death backfires as police repeatedly question her about her presence in the woods after her confrontation with Tori at the party. Not able to explain her visions of the dead, Adele begins to doubt her own innocence and believes it might be easier to simply confess.

THE LONELY DEAD is classic April Henry with page-turning suspense and spot-on details. This may be my favorite yet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

WHAT YOU HIDE by Natalie D. Richards

What You Hide

Spencer's parents won't lay off. They are constantly bugging him to do better in school and to try harder in hockey. Even his sister is nagging him about writing application letters and applying to colleges. He just isn't sure that whole scene is for him. That's why he decides to be a rebel and climb the library.

It would have been cool, too, if he hadn't accidentally put his knee through that $4000 dollar window on his way to the roof. Now he is doing community service at the library where he's shelving books, straightening chairs, and helping people log on to computers. It is also where he meets a green eyed girl named Mallory.

Mallory's mother has changed. She used to be independent and confident, but after she met Charlie, she seemed to lose herself. Mallory is trying to convince her mother, pregnant with Charlie's child, to leave him and start over before the baby is born.

She was sure she had convinced her, but when the time came to leave, her mother refused. But, Mallory wasn't staying a day longer. Now she's homeless and hiding out in the library after closing time, hoping it will provide a warm place for the night. That's how she met Spencer.

When Spencer realizes Mallory has nowhere to go, he tries to step in with a solution. The more he interacts with her during his library shifts, the more he begins to like her. Her life is so different than his, he can't stop thinking about her even when they aren't together.

The discovery of a dead body in the library throws a kink in Mallory's plans to continue hiding out there. Spencer not only wants to help Mallory, but also help solve the mystery of the dead woman and the strange signs left behind in the library. Mystery and intrigue mount as Mallory tries to stay hidden from Charlie's threats and Spencer hides from responsibilities he isn't ready to face.

Natalie D. Richards is also the author of SIX MONTHS LATER, ONE WAS LOST, and WE ALL FALL DOWN. Suspense and mystery are her trademarks and WHAT YOU HIDE will not disappoint.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw

Jackson remembers first grade and the first appearance of his imaginary friend. It was a cat named Crenshaw. Now Jackson is in fifth grade, and Crenshaw has made another appearance. What kid in fifth grade has an imaginary friend? What if that imaginary friend is a larger than life cat who loves taking bubble baths and doing cartwheels?

Life keeps throwing Jackson and his family curveballs. Money is tight even though both his parents work multiple jobs. His mother was once a music teacher, but the program was cut at her school. Now she works wherever she can get a job. Jackson's dad used to have a decent paying job, but then he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He works when he can, but he is weak and often walks with a cane.

Memories of living in the family minivan for fourteen weeks are still fresh in Jackson's mind. Two adults, a little sister, and a smelly dog make living in a car a mostly unpleasant experience. That's when Jackson met Crenshaw for the first time.

Now Jackson's family is in danger of losing their apartment at Swanlake Village. It is entirely possible that they will have to resort to living in their van yet again. Maybe that's why Crenshaw has made a reappearance. Maybe he's just the kind of friend Jackson needs at the moment.

Author Katherine Applegate explores the world of the homeless in her novel CRENSHAW. One in five children in the U.S. are hungry, and many are victims of poverty because their parents are forced to work low wage jobs that can't provide the basic necessities - food, clothing, and shelter. CRENSHAW is a tale that will connect with readers of all ages as it reveals a secret life lived by far too many.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

THE CRUEL PRINCE by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air Series #1)
I will honestly admit that fantasy is not my thing, but I can definitely see the appeal of Holly Black's THE CRUEL PRINCE. I enjoyed it enough that I will probably read book #2 THE WICKED KING.

Jude is a mortal living in the High Court of Faerie. She has lived there with her two sisters since her parents were murdered ten years earlier. Humans are hated by most of the Faerie folk so life there hasn't been easy.

Jude's guardian, also the faerie who murdered her parents, treats her well and encourages her desire to become a knight. He even helps her hone her sword skills. Jude's twin sister Taryn is mostly interested in finding someone to marry and thinks Jude's interest in physical activity is a waste of time.

Jude's fighting talents catch the eye of Prince Dain. He selects her to be one of his spies. Her work for him will provide her with the freedom to come and go and prevents her from coming under the spell of faeries who seek to torment her for being a disgusting human.

Clever thinking and problem solving help Jude discover that things may not be as they seem in Dain's court. At his coronation as king all hell breaks loose, and Jude learns about a plot that could threaten those she cares about most.

Author Holly Black is able to create a fantasy world that grabs readers immediately. There is nonstop action and intrigue with twists and turns that kept me guessing and wanting to read more. THE CRUEL PRINCE trilogy will thrill Black's fans and no doubt earn her some new ones.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing Trilogy Series #1)

THE TESTING is compared to HUNGER GAMES by many. It is a dystopian adventure in much the same style.

The planet is mostly a wasteland. Various colonies have survived and each performs a special function to ensure Earth's survival. Young people are selected for The Testing upon graduation from schooling in each of the colonies. These specially chosen individuals report to Tosu City to participate in a series of four tests. Whoever successfully passes the tests will begin studying at the University. It is the hope that these talented young people will play a major role in rebuilding the world.

Cia comes from the Five Lakes Colony. It has been years since any young members of this colony have been selected for The Testing. This year four have been chosen. Cia's father warns her of potential dangers and tells her to beware who she trusts. Heeding her father's warning, Cia begins her time in Tosu City cautiously.

It is soon obvious that intelligence, creative problem solving, and cleverness are necessary to pass the multiple tests each of the young people face. Cia must be brave and often trust only her own instincts as she struggles to earn a coveted place at the University. The tests are challenging and it is soon clear that failure can result in death. Cia's resolve is seriously tested when she witnesses the violent death of one of her friends.

THE TESTING is the first book in the trilogy by author Joelle Charbonneau. The series is definitely one that will interest HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT fans.